Tesla Model 3/Y’s Excellent Voice Recognition Controls


If you are old enough, you probably remember the early computer voice recognition efforts on company phone trees which were really terrible. The technology is vastly improved and is now very useful in many situations.

On my Apple smartphone, I can select the microphone ikon and speak instead of type to enter text for many applications. It is very good in most situations and frustratingly bad in others. When you are typing, Apple’s autocorrect feature will fix your misspellings, but often will replace an obscure word you have typed correctly with some other word entirely.

A feature I use that many of you may not know about is selecting alternate keyboards besides English. I lived in Germany for two years and am very fluent in German. I lived in Paris for six months and am marginally fluent in French. I know a lot of Spanish vocabulary and a little Italian. If you set up these alternate foreign language keyboards, it will give you the foreign letters and accents in those languages. I am fluent in German and French, but my writing skills are terrible. If I speak in German, for example, the voice recognition will do a much better job creating the German text than I could hope to do on my own.

I wrote a book about my limnology professor father. The University of Wisconsin made several recordings of his narrations about his career. When I use the free voice recognition software on the web, it does a terrible transcription job on his narrations, especially with technical terms. Professional transcription services are expensive, so I find myself transcribing his recordings by hand 25 seconds of speech at a time.

Why is voice recognition really important on your Model 3/Y?

Virtually all of the controls on a Model 3/Y are on the 15” horizontally oriented touchscreen to your right. This means you need to look away from the road to change settings. Not very safe! If you have Full Self Driving Beta, there is a camera below the mirror that is looking at your face and will give you an audible and visual warning if you look at the screen for more than a few seconds. The solution: use the voice recognition controls instead. You push the right thumb wheel on the steering wheel, a green circular ikon appears, and you speak! (See Figure 1.)

What voice controls do I use the most? (My voice commands are underlined and in italics.)

Navigate to McDonald’s: It comes up with the nearest McDonald’s, and if you have FSD Beta, the car will drive you there.

You may say that was easy, what about something more obscure? Navigate to the Crimson Café (See Fig. 1): Not only did it give the route to the little one-of-a-kind Crimson Café in Rhinelander, Wisconsin, but it gave the directions to the new location of only a few months, not the location it was at for the last several years. The Tesla voice recognition software will come up with practically any commercial establishment in your metropolitan area … and it will usually come up with an establishment locally, not one 3000 miles away.

If you have FSD Beta, this is particularly useful. I use it all the time because if you want the car to drive you to a specific location, you need to enter it into the navigation.

What if you want to enter a specific address into the navigation system?

You push the Navigation button on the screen, but instead of entering the address on the keyboard, you enter it verbally: 9 0 0 East, 1 1 8 South, Lindon, Utah

What other commands do I frequently make verbally?

Set driver’s temperature to 75!

Set fan to 5!

Set driver’s seat (heater) to 3!

What controls should I use but haven’t up to now?

Turn on air conditioning!

Set fan location to face!

Set windshield wipers to level 3!

Turn on windshield defogger!

Check tire pressure! Oops … it turns out that command is not recognized.

What if I want to make a phone call or text?

I hold my iPhone near my mouth and say “Hey Siri: Call Ice Mary Huebner!Mary is my wife and in my address book she is listed as: I (In) C (Case of) E (Emergency) Mary Huebner Hasler. My iPhone will then dial my wife and I have a choice to listen to her: 1) through my hearing aids, 2) The car’s speakers, or 3) the phone speaker.

Or I say “Hey Seri, Text Marta DeBellis!” (That’s my daughter). It will then say, “What do you want to say?” I then say “On my way, my ETA is 5:30.” It then says sent and I’m done!

It will access any number in my iPhone address book.

Figure 2: “Play ‘Shallow’ by Lady Gaga” — using Tesla Model 3 voice recognition controls. Photo by Fritz Hasler/CleanTechnica.

What if I want to play music?

I push the right thumb wheel and say: “Play ‘Shallow’ by Lady Gaga!” (See Figure 2.) Then if I have the premium streaming service, which also gives me the wonderful satellite map (Figures 1 & 2), you will hear Lady Gaga and Bradly Cooper singing their amazing duet on the wonderful 10-speaker sound system .

Or I might say: “Play ‘One Day More’ from Les Miserable.” It’s one of my favorites. When the song is done, it will continue to play songs of that genre. In this case, it plays songs from musicals.

Or I might say: “Play ‘Down at the Twist and Shout’ by Mary Chapin Carpenter“I’m not a big country and western music fan, but I like that one.

The streaming service will play practically any song you can think of and then continue playing songs of that genre.

What if I’m driving on two-lane highways in Wyoming between Casper and Lusk or in rural Wisconsin with poor cellphone service?

I think you are out of luck. The voice recognition appears to require connection to the cloud, where the voice recognition is done. By Google perhaps? I have also had to reboot the car operating system sometimes (hold down both thumb wheels) in order to get voice recognition to work.

If I want music, I push the dots (…) at the bottom of the screen. That brings up a sub-menu and I select Bluetooth. Then I must go to iTunes on my phone and select a playlist. I’ve put together a playlist of my favorite duets by Barbara Streisand & Niel Diamond, Aaron Nevil & Lindon Ronstadt, Elton John & Kiki Dee, Andrea Bocelli & Céline Dion, plus a few of my other favorites by Bette Midler and Gloria Estefan etc . that I love.

What if I want to listen to the news?

I say: “Play CNN News Station” or ”Play KUER News Station(PBS Salt Lake City), then the icons for those come up and you must select them by touching the screen.

You can’t say “Play CNN” or ”Play MSNBC” or ”Play Fox News,” because clever people have already grabbed exclusive rights to those titles and you stations get some odd-ball music.




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